Friday, 21 July 2017

On the way in, and on the way out?

On this week's Brussels2Berlin podcast, we talk Turkey, and Brexit. It was a bad week for EU relations with both.

This week Brexit talks began in earnest in Brussels, but EU officials were left exasperated by the lack of a plan on the British side. Earlier this week, I wrote about how the 'business as usual' attitude of UK civil servants in Brussels is making an increasing number of people think Brexit will never happen at all.

Meanwhile, in Berlin, the focus this week was on deteriorating relations with Turkey - a poisonous issue that is seeping its way into the German election. Turkey is supposed to eventually join the EU, but few expect this to ever actually happen. Is that same skepticism now apply to Britain's planned withdrawal.

Me and Tyson Barker, a former state department official who now works at the think-tank Aspen Institute in Berlin, broke down the week's Brexit and Turkey developments in this week's Brussels2Berlin podcast.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

“Why are you still here?”

As they exit international bodies, the US and UK are refusing to give up their seats at the tables they plan to leave. The question is whether their international partners will let them get away with it.

This week, the difficult negotiations over the UK’s exit from the European Union began in earnest in Brussels. David Davis, the UK’s chief negotiator, squared off against Michel Barnier, his EU counterpart.

Davis called for both sides to “get down to business” for arranging a swift British exit from the EU. He then promptly went back to London, 60 minutes later. He gave no explanation for his own swift departure, which left the EU negotiators perplexed. Just days earlier, Barnier had warned the UK that it is is running out of time to negotiate its exit, which must be completed by March 2019. “The clock is ticking” he said sternly.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Who won the G20?

Angela Merkel won, Donald Trump lost and Theresa May...was she even there?

There's a lot to unpack from this weekend's G20 summit in Hamburg. Luckily, Brussels2Berlin has a podcast to help you figure it all out.

I'm launching a podcast with Tyson Barker, a policy analyst with the Aspen Institute here in Berlin who used to be with the state department in Washington. Each week we're going to be talking about developments in the EU and German capitals - he's bringing the German expertise, and I'm bringing the EU expertise.

We decided to do our first pilot episode about the G20. It's still a beta version and we're planning a more public launch of a sleeker podcast later this month. But for now, here's our pilot walking through this weekend's developments. Enjoy.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Germany’s late but welcome turn on gay marriage

Merkel’s decision to allow same sex marriage is a calculated political move ahead of the election. 

For several years, Germany has seemed like a strange anomaly in Western Europe on one of the key cultural issues of the modern era. 

As country after country passed gay marriage in Europe and the Americas, Germany held out

On the gay marriage map of Europe, a wave of dark blue came rushing in from the West. Starting with The Netherlands and Belgium in 2001, countries adopted full gay marriage. 

The most surprising development came in 2015, when the Irish voted in a referendum to allow gay marriage - the first country to do so by public vote. Long known as a conservative country dominated by the Catholic church, it was a chance for the country to demonstrate just how much it has changed over the past three decades. 

But meanwhile in central Europe, everything remained frozen.

Friday, 9 June 2017

So where does this leave Brexit?

Theresa May scored an own goal with her disastrous decision to call a snap UK election, but her humiliating defeat was not a plea from the public to stay in the EU. 

When Theresa May called a snap election in April, it was a nakedly opportunistic move. 

The opposition Labour Party was in disarray, 20 points behind the Conservatives in the polls. Their leader, Jeremy Corbyn, did not command the loyalty of his MPs and had only held on to his position because of grassroots support. 

The UK Independence Party essentially had no raison d'etre any more. The one-issue party had gotten their wish - Britain was leaving the EU. The Scottish National Party looked to be in trouble in Scotland as well. May saw an opportunity to hoover up Labour, UKIP and SNP votes and give her perhaps the largest majority in UK history - making the country effectively a one-party state. It would be a big improvement from her existing situation, having inherited a razor-thin majority government from David Cameron.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Who is Germany’s anti-Trump?

The US President heaped further scorn upon Germans during last week’s NATO summit. In a German election year, he will become the perfect foil.

Even before last week’s NATO and G7 summits in Europe, Angela Merkel knew that Donald Trump would not have kind words for the Germans.

Having already suffered the indignity of having him refuse to shake her hand during her state visit to Washington - possibly as revenge for her frosty response to his election - Merkel could have expected that Trump’s obsession with the German trade surplus and lack of military spending would again bring hostility during their second meeting. It did.